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The Bahamas Is Open For Business As Weather Conditions Improve And Relief Efforts Are Underway...

Bahamas Tourism Communiqué: Hurricane Joaquin and The Islands Of The Bahamas

Tourism industry partners are teaming up with government officials in an effort to bring much-needed relief to Family Islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin. The islands most heavily impacted by the Category 4 hurricane include Acklins, Crooked Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Long Island.

American Organization USAID donated food, water, bedding and other necessities that were delivered to Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Island and San Salvador. Tourism industry partners will coordinate their efforts once the National Emergency and Management Agency (NEMA) has advised aid distribution protocols and the main needs in the various affected islands.

As part of the Tourism Stakeholder's disaster relief effort Eastern Airlines will soon send a cargo plane from Grand Bahama Island with donated goods to the affected islands. The plane will land in Exuma or San Salvador. Joining them will be Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association representatives, who will assist with the distribution of the goods amongst all the islands affected. Items should be dropped off at the Red Cross in Grand Bahama. The Government of The Bahamas expresses heartfelt gratitude for all who have come to the aid of those affected by Hurricane Joaquin.

Disaster Relief Operations

The Ministry of Finance advises the public that where disaster relief operations are carried out by charitable and non-profit organizations, provisions exist under the VAT Act for exemptions and refund of VAT expenses. Charities must register online and obtain a TIN or Tax identification number from the VAT Department. They must ensure that the TIN is quoted on all of their local expense receipts.

Most relief organizations have already received a TIN. Others are encouraged to register. In most cases, the process of getting a TIN takes less than 24 hours.

All donations of relief supplies shipped from outside The Bahamas are eligible for exemptions of both the VAT and Customs duties, once advance notice and documentation is given to the Ministry of Finance, or NEMA sanctions the request.

Where charities incur direct expenses on their relief operations, whether for supplies or charter operations, they can apply to the VAT Department for refunds. Refunds, however, cannot be provided to private individuals for goods donated to charities, whether purchased or used. However, where monies are donated, the relief organizations qualify for the VAT refund, when they use these funds.

To avoid being victims of fraudulent schemes, it is strongly recommended that persons making donations to relief organizations request proof that the organization has a tax identification number.

That Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has issued a notice to industry partners advising them to allow NEMA, the appropriate Government agency, to conduct the initial damage and needs assessment in all the affected areas so that offers of assistance are appropriate. BMOT stressed that it is not recommended for private entities to travel to the affected areas at this time.

The Bahamas Red Cross is accepting supplies and donations at their Headquarters on John F. Kennedy Drive. Contact The Bahamas Red Cross.

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